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The Ottoman Army of the Great War

In 1909 a German Military Mission, usder the auspices of Field Marshal von der Goltz, was invited to reorganise the Turkish Army, and superintend its instruction and training. It consisted of about 20 officers who contracted to servo for three years with the Turkish Army. In 1913, after the war, it was decided to extend and amplify this scheme, and a German general was invited to become the Director of the Mission with a proposal to increase the number of German officers to about 40. The mission under Marshal Liman v. Sanders arrived in January, 1914, and immediately assumed a prominent position in the direction of military affaire. Executive functions, both regimentally and on the Staff, were conferred upon its members, and the influence of the German direction was seen in the progress of the mobilisation which was decided upon in August 1914. The subsequent large augmentation of the mission, the arrivals of German soldiers and sailors for the Ottoman services, with military stores, material and money, obtained a predominance for the German element, which finally resulted in Turkey throwing in her lot with the Central European Alliance and having to distribute her available forces on several frontiers and theatres of operation.

According to the new Law of Service introduced by the War Minister, Enver Pasha, at the commencement of the year 1914, it was enacted for the first time that every mala Ottoman subject was liable to military service, and that even where an exoneration tax would be accepted, this did net free the individual from military training, but only from a portion of the fall term. This law had no opportunity of full discussion, but on the general mobilisation, commenced in August 1914, the provisions were stringently carried out, in so far that every man within the military age, Moslem or Christian, was called upon for service. Inasmuch as the previous laws gave numerous exemptions, and were in especial applied only partially in the case of Christians, it naturally followed that a mass of untrained men presented themselves.

These untrained men were divided into three general groups : (1) Moslem, whose training was ut once commenced; (2) Christian, who were only partially taken for combatant work and were mainly employed on transport and fatigue work, and (3) certain Moslems and Christians who, to provide funds, were allowed to pay a high exoneration tax. By these means the army ranks, which had been seriously depleted by the Balkan war, were very sensibly filled, and a certain sum was at the same time gathered in to defray the cost of mobilisation.

In theory the new law provided for military service between the ages of 20 and 45. The color service was laid down at 2 years in the infantry and 3 in the other branches, with the remainder up to the ago of 40 in the reserve ('ihtiat'). From 40 to 46 the service continued in the 'Mustahfiz' or Territorial Army. The new arrangement abolished the old 'Itedif' formations of long standing, which were unsatisfactory organisations through want of artillery, cavalry and departmental services. The 'Redif' were reorganised as recruiting centers throughout tlm Kinpire.

On February 14, 1916, the Turkish Chamber passed a bill to extend military service to the age of 50 and to exact a payment from all those who are excused. As the existing active ('Nizam') peace organisation, after the lose of territory resulting from the Balkan War, had been little cut down, tho great bulk of the trained men on mobilisation were required to complete these and the remainder were, as their training progressed, formed into depot or reserve battalions in the recruiting districts, and affiliated, for refilling wastage, to existing peace organisations. The 'Tribal' or irregular Kurdish Cavalry, after being suppressed and again organised, was formed much as before, and was employed in the war operations.

As a result of the loss of territory in the Balkan War, the army inspection areas were re-allotted. The first covered Turkey in Europe and Western Anatolia, the second Syria, the third Kurdistan and Eastern Anatolia, and the fourth Mesopotamia. Five army corps were located in the first inspection, two in the hecond, three in the third, and two in the fourth. These numbers, with the VII (Yemen) Corps and 2 independent divisions of Hejaz and Assir, made a total of 13 army corps of 38 divisions, each corps naving 3 divisions, except those in Mesopotamia and the seventh, which have each only two. Thus, notwithstanding the loss of Epirus, Macedonia and Tripoli, there was only a net decrease of 5 divisions. On the other hand, there were now no Redif divisions.

Divisions normally had 3 line regiments and 6 to 8 field or mountain batteries, each line regiment consisting of three battalions, thus the division had nine battalions. The artillery, where armed with quick-firing guns, was organised in 4-gun latteries, and where armed with old pattern guns in 6-gun batteries. An army corps consists of 2 or 3 divisions, a cavalry brigade or single regiment, 8 howitzer batteries, where available, an engineer battalion, transport battalion, and telegraph company. There were only 26 regiments of cavalry of 6 squadrons each ; besides these, there were the regiments of irregular Kurdish cavalry

The peace strength of the Turkish army, according to the latest project of 1916, should have been about 210,000 men ; the mobilisation produced roughly field armies totalling some 750,000, with another 150,000 to 200,000 in training. These numbers may be increased as men below 20 years of age are added, but they include the 19 year men who were taken before their time.

The War Minister was responsible for the administration and efficiency of the army. Under him there was a Chief of the General Staff at the head of a General Staff Department of 4 sections, and a 'Musteshar,' who fulfils the purposes of a permanent Under Secretary. The General Staff was largely permeated with officers from the German Military Mission, including a largo number of additional officers who arrived after the mobilisation.

The arsenals and factories of war material were the department of the Director-General of Military Factories, an official whose duties and responsibilities corresponded to those of the British Master-General of the Ordnance, and who, though subordinate to the Minister of War, presented a separate and independent budget to Parliament.

The estimates for 'ordinary' military expenditure in the 1914-15 budget were approximately 5,300,000^. for the Ministry of War, 390,000/. for the Ordnance Department, and 1,980,000Z. for Gendarmerie. These figures, however, give no indication of the total amounts expended on military services, which include large sums chargeable to a second 'extraordinary' budget, besides an enormous special expenditure incurred in consequence of the recent wars. The actual outlay in connection with the Italian and Balkan wars has been estimated at some 30 millions of pounds. These figures have, of course, been subsequently largely added to by the recent mobilisation and entrance of Turkey into the European conflict

The Turkish infantry had the 7"65 mm. Mauser magazine rifle, model 1890. Since the war, however, there has been a great shortage of theae weapons, and many of the troops have only the converted Martini. The field artillery after the losses ot the war was only left with some 110 Q. F. field and horse batteries of Krupp 7 o cm. batteries. The mountain artillery was similarly only left with some 22 batteries of Krupp guns of the same cilibre, but 27 Schneider Q.F. batteries have since been received. Consequently the army was exceedingly short of artillery, the lack being partly made up by the employment of the old pattern field gun. Several batteries of Q.F. Skoda 10 5 cm. howitzers had been received from Austria since the mobilisation, and it is possible that further additional material has now bern imported. Some of the old pattern 12 cm. howitzers were still being used, and there were some mobile batteries of 15 cm.

In February 1917 a law was passed providing for universal military service between the ages of 20 and 45. The term of actual service was placed at two years in the infantry and three in other branches, the remaining years up to 40 being spent in the Ihtiat, or reserve. Front 40 to 45 the service is continued in the Mustahfis, or territorial army. The tribal, or irregular Kurdish, cavalry was employed in military operations during the Great War. Turkish divisions have normally three line regiments and six to nine field or mountain batteries, each line regiment consisting of three battalions; thus the division comprises nine battalions. The artillery, where armed with quick-firing guns, is organized in four-gun batteries and where armed with older guns, in six-gun batteries. An army corps consists of two or three divisions, a cavalry brigade, three howitzer batteries, engineer battalion, transport battalion and signal company. The peace strength of the army is estimated at about 200,000 men; the war strength is approximately 1,000,000.

In addition to the regular military forces mentioned above there are large forces of gendarmerie, necessitated by the many subject races and turbulent elements within the empire. This force amounts to about 60,000 men, of whom about 16,000 are mounted. It is distributed throughout the empire and during the Great War the bulk of this force performed army duties, being replaced by territorial forces. The Turkish infantry is armed with the 7.65 millimeter Mauser magazine rifle, model of 1890. The artillery possesses about 110 quick fire field and horse batteries of 7.5 centimeter Krupp batteries. The mountain artillery has 22 batteries of the same size Krupps and 27 Schneider quick-fire batteries.

The Gendarmerie

The extent of the Turkish Empire, its many subject races and turbulent elements, necessitated the formation of large forces of Gendarmerie. After the advent of the Constitution it was decided to reorganise the gendarmerie, not only of Macedonia, but throughout the country. The Empire has been divided into six gendarmerie districts, with headquarters at Salonika, Constantinople, Smyrna, Beyrout, Bagdad, and Trebizond. The reforms have been entrusted to European officers, many of whom have gained experience of things Turkish by a period of service in the Macedonian gendarmerie, during the reign of Abdul Hamid. Four or five foreign officers had been allotted to each of the six districts. A gendarme, who nearly always remains in the same district as that in which he is recruited, is compelled to serve for four years if he enlists direct from civil life, whilst a recruit who joins from the Army need only stay in the force for two years. As far as possible, officers and non-commissioned officers who have been trained in Macedonia as a result of the reform scheme introduced for that district have been scattered throughout the country to assist the European officers in their task-the carrying out of which is so urgently necessary to the welfare of the country.

The Gendarmerie amounted in 1916 altogether to about 60,000 men, of whom 16,000 to 17,000 are mounted. The bulk of these had been taken for army duties by 1916 and replaced by Territorial or 'Mustahfiz' levies. The Gendarmerie was recruited partly from the reserve of the 'Nizam,' and partly by direct enlistment.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:03:47 ZULU